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The Secrets of My Fabric Stash


Occasionally I receive questions on how I choose fabrics for my quilts, and/or acquire fabrics for my stash.  There's not a simple answer for this, as it's a bit of a task to analyze one's own intuitive process!  I've decided to put my mind to the task here and see if I can dig out any rhyme or reason that could be useful to you!

And I must add, before I go any farther, that anything I mention here is my own process.  I'm not implying that you are doing anything wrong if you do the complete opposite! 

So, there are kind of two questions that I get approached with.  One is how I choose fabrics for a quilt, and the other one is how I choose fabrics from the store to add to my stash.  Now, these two questions are quite related, so we'll see where we end up!

I started by going over to my fabric cupboard (shown above) where a majority of my fabric is stored.  The only fabric you won't see here are some larger backing pieces which are hanging in the closet, some larger chunks of home decor/ vintage fabric which I use for curtains, tablecloths, etc. and my tub of vintage fabric.

As I stand in front of my fabric cupboard, here are a few observations I make about my own fabric purchasing.

I never buy full fabric collections. (except Denyse Schmidt) I don't think in collections.  (I'm not saying I never have bought a full collection, because I certainly have.  And some good things have come from this, such as finding a new favorite that I didn't realize I would like)

Vintage fabrics I buy in person at thrift stores, or receive free from various sources:) Almost all other fabric I buy online since I'm not near any brick and mortar quilt stores.  This creates it's own challenge which I will address yet.

If I could use only one fabric designer's fabric it would hands down be Denyse Schmidt.  She designs fabrics inspired by antique textiles, so that's a no brainer!  It's actually not that I always love her prints so much.  Some of them are downright ugly.  But they always work in my quilts.  And I always run out of her fabrics before any other because I'm always reaching for them.  It's a very rare quilts of mine that wouldn't have at least one of her fabrics in it.

Which brings me to one of the very main important points that I've learned in my fabric buying.  I have had my share of misses, ordering prints that I thought I liked online, and then some of them I knew immediately when I set eyes on that I didn't like them.  And some were pretty but they've sat on my shelf for years and never been used.  So analyze which fabrics you actually use to make the quilts you love.  In my case, a lot of these fabrics are not all that exciting.  You will learn by trial and error which are colors and scales of prints that are useful for you.


Case in point are these two prints from Hope Valley by Denyse Schmidt.  I think I could say I've used these fabrics more than any others.  I reordered them quite a few times, until they went out of print and now I have just the tiniest sliver of the green one left.  (please reprint these Denyse!)  I find that two color prints are what I use most.  Small geometrics and small florals... 


Here's another extended stack of much used prints.  Some I've reordered, some I'm rationing, some I'm always looking for a similar replacement because they're out of print.  I find that I use a lot of muted blues, green, grays, tans and neutrals.  Pinks and yellows tend to be more accents, at least I don't go through them as quickly, so even though I'm so drawn to them, I have to keep my purchase of them in check!  I find though that I can never buy too many muted blue/greens because I'm always running out!

This is something that is very personal, but I'd say it's a better idea to buy fabric that works with the quilts you want to make, rather than make quilts that fit with the stash that you impulsively purchased.  (speaking from experience)  Are these fabrics as fun to buy as those cute multicolored florals and prints?  No, but they're sure easier to use up!


Here are some more examples of my all time favorite prints.  Sadly most of them are used up, except for these little squares in my scrap bin.  It's interesting to note that most of these give a vintage vibe, but only a couple of them are actually vintage.  (only two of them are vintage, can you pick them out?) 


I'll give a short description of each of these just for interest's sake.  I won't link to them because most of them aren't available. 

1.  Sweetwater by Moda - Sweetwater is a good staple for text prints which I always like to sprinkle in my quilts.
2.  A new print that I bought from a Korean store on Etsy.  There are some great fabrics in these Etsy shops (I'll link to a few at the bottom)
3.  Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley ( need I say more?)
4. A vintage sheet.  I don't use a lot of these in my regular quilts as I would tend to make a quilt just out of vintage sheets or else out of other cottons.  But this print I just loved for some reason, and I'm sure i'll never find more of it... boo hoo....
5.  A Lecien fabric, Memoirs Au Paris maybe?  Not sure on that collection name, but Lecien brand has some lovely prints.  Go search for Lecien on Etsy!  Or Yuwa... ok I'll stop on than one for now! 
6.  Hmm.. it's a reproduction print, pretty sure it's a Jo Morton print (she puts out many collections of reproduction fabric)  I tell you, your fabric stash needs a few of these, even if you don't think you like those reproduction style quilts!  A black like this, with a bit of an old fashioned design on it?  It will make your modern fabric choices sing!
7.  I think this is a Robert Kaufman stripe?  I'm so lazy and don't feel like researching these all!:)  But I do know that Robert Kaufman has these types of striped fabrics.  They're woven cotton, and your stash absolutely need a few woven cotton stripes!  Especially in a classic blue!
8.  A Liberty of London print.  I think I could safely say that any two color Liberty print is going to be a classic in your stash.
9.  Don't know this one, as I purchased it as a rolled up fat quarter in a brick and mortar quilt shop.  It's one of those that I loved at sight and used it sparingly and carefully and didn't throw away even the tiniest scrap.  And if I saw if for sale I'd buy a yard of it for sure!
10. Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley of course!  This green is just so very useful to me.  I've not found any other fabric prints in this exact shade of green. 
11.  This was from a Little House on the Prairie collection that was printed a few years ago.   By Andover, and yes, Andover has some great old fashioned prints here and there! 
12.A Moda polka dot.  Can't remember which designer?  But I can always count on Moda for some good muted colored polka dots.  Almost every collection they put out, and there's a lot of them! has a polka dot in a useful color.
13. Lori Holt Granny Chic, brand is Riley Blake.  This one is pretty new so probably still available, although I shouldn't tell you this because I want to buy some more of it before it's all gone!
14. Denyse Schmidt - can't remember which collection but this red and the green like it were some of my favorites and I'm so sad they're gone!  Her little geometric prints just work for all my quilts!
15.  I think this is from a Feedsack Collection, probably by Windham.  An older one so I'm sure it's not available.  I loved this one so much!  Oh well, there's always new ones coming!
16. A button down ladies shirt that I bought at the thrift store.  I don't do that very often, but just loved this print when I saw it!
17. And then, last but not least, this Anna Maria Horner print!  This is one of those big florals, that could seem like it would not be as useful, but I used it all up!  I guess it must have been the right colors for me...

So, that was long and I don't expect you to have read through it all... my purpose was to show you that my stash has been acquired over years of looking in multiple sources and learning what I actually use, versus what catches my eye and seems pretty at a glance.  Also, to find these prints online takes a fair bit of time.  The last year I've done very little fabric purchasing simply because I want to use up more of what I have and cut back on my own consumerism!  I used to keep up on fabric companies and designers and their new collections.  This allowed me to sift through and find the prints that I thought were exceptional and needed to come home to me:)

I've found that the best way to not be tempted to buy more fabric is simply not to look at what's available, so the last year I have not kept up with new fabrics much at all!  The reason I'm saying this is that I don't want in any way to contribute to anyone feeling like they need to go out and buy a bunch of fabric! 

Yes, a well rounded stash is very useful for making interesting quilts.  But too much can be stifling and overwhelming, so that's why I advise you not to buy full collections, but rather find individual prints that you love.

I've decided to write a separate post with tips on finding and shopping for fabrics online as well as the links to some shops.

Scrap Quilt #6








Time to show you another of the scrap quilts!  This is one that wasn't in the plans either.  As I was nearing the end of cutting up all the scraps, I seemed to have a nice sized pile of little strips that hadn't been cut into anything else. 

So of course I made a log cabin quilt, as one does!  I used my favorite shade of vintagey green/blue for the center blocks.  In such a wildly scrappy quilt, it can be nice to have this little touch of connection between the blocks.

I ended up loving the blocks in this quilt so much, that it's almost a favorite!  I guess there are a lot of little bits of my most loved fabrics in this quilt.  And it always amazing to see all these different fabrics sitting next to each other in a block.  I keep seeing a different block that is my new favorite!

I decided to quilt this one in the ditch between the blocks and then tied with yarn in the center of each block.  I love the feel and texture this gives the quilt.  It makes it a bit puffier and so soft and squishy.

And the Liberty of London backing sure doesn't hurt it!  I bought a big chunk of this fabric when it was on sale at Fabric.com and I wish I had bought more because it's one of those pieces that I could back almost every quilt with.  I love a two-color backing like this, and the shade and print on this one are the very best!  (the print is called Capel by Liberty and it comes in a bunch of colors)

Dimensions on this one are 45"x60" so it's perfect for a lap quilt or child/toddler.

Scrap Quilt #5







So my last quilt (the pinwheel one) used up all the 'dirty' or 'muddy' colors.  This one is all the 'clean colors.  So the squares all started at 5", and I had to go to my fabric stash to supplement a few of the white background squares.  I basically went from dark to light values on this one.

The backing is a vintage sheet which I've been saving for a long time.  It's so cheery and it just seemed perfect for this quilt.  Because it's a heavier weight cotton, it gives this quilt more a picnic blanket feel.

Dimensions:62"x65"  (just realized when I measured this that I sewed on one more row the long way, can't remember if this was intentional!  Oh well, it's rectangular now:)

Scrap Quilt #4











I feel like this is a lot of photos of quilt #4, but there were just so many individual blocks and fabric combos that I love, I wanted to show them all close up!

So as I was cutting up all my scraps, I found that I had a lot of 5" squares or larger chunks that worked well for these squares.  So I made a large stack of them.  I wasn't sure how to put them all together in one quilt, as they seemed quite varied in their style. 

Now, my previous quilt showed that you can totally put all fabrics together in a scrappy quilt, and with the right pattern it will look great.  BUT, there are times when I like to separate what I call 'dirty' and 'clean' colors.  Does someone have a better visual name for me?  "Dirty" is not a bad name here, maybe "muddy" would be a better description.  Anyways, I separated all those scrappy 5" squares into 2 stacks going by these criteria. 

The quilt you see here is the result of the 'dirty' stack.  When I decided to make pinwheel blocks, this cream and black polka dot jumped out as a fun sashing.  And then you can never go wrong with this shade of green that I used for the little center blocks.

The pinwheels are all smooshed up against the edge without a border.  This is directly inspired by a vintage quilt that I own, made by my great grandmother.  (Someday I plan to show you all the quilts around my house that are made by my family!)

The backing is a super fun print in that shade of warm minty green.  It's full of vintage sewing patterns and measurements, I just love it!

Scrap Quilt #3







This quilt was made up of all the leftover 2.5"x3.5" rectangles.  There was obviously no color plans here at all.  I included every piece that was left.  I did alternate light and dark values (although only relative to the color next to it).  And I would use up all of one fabric before moving on to the next.  I like how this gives it a bit of presence without being totally chaotic.

Of course, to mix it all up completely would have looked ok too.  That would have been a completely different look.  But I do like how keeping all of one kind of fabric together gives it a bit of stripey flow. 

This quilt is one of those that so totally doesn't work, that it does!  I really like the unusual color combos that I keep noticing as I look at it.  A lot of these are fabrics that I would not naturally pair together, so it's fun to see them hanging out together here.

The backing is a sweet floral print, and the size is 51"x58"

Scrap Quilt #2





I'm planning to show you these scrap quilts in the order that I made the tops.  So as I was cutting out scraps, I realized that my blacks/darks and also my whites/lights baskets, had some larger chunks in them.  I couldn't bear to cut them up into the smaller pieces so I decided to cut a bunch of 5" squares and see how many I would get. 

And I got enough to make this lap sized quilt!   I kind of love this design, using only half square triangles and then some squares in the corners to give it that star design.  (original inspiration from @ruthhasegutierrez on Instagram.  She's a quilter who dyes all her own fabric and makes amazing quilts)

Without planning this way, a lot of these scraps had bits of pink and yellow in them, so I purposely added a couple yellow squares, and then this pink piece of double gauze was so perfect for the back!

I quilted it in simple straight lines, which is my go-to type of quilting if I don't have some other idea. 

After washing, this one ends up at 49"x 56", so again a nice smaller throw quilt.

And as usual, this quilt as well as all these scrap quilts, will be available in my shop.